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September 08, 2017

Most people make resolutions in January, but as you probably already know, academics aren’t like most people.  For us, there are really two new years: the start of the calendar year in January plus the start of the academic year in late August/early September. 

Don’t get me wrong; most academics do work in the summer, contrary to popular opinion.  Almost all of us spend the summer doing some mix of research, service, and teaching, which is what our job entails during the academic year; we just tend to have a different balance of those responsibilities in the summer.

Given these shifts, the return to classes each fall feels like a new year for many of us, and as such, it’s a common time for academics to make new academic year resolutions.  I have seen a number of these types of blogs, tweets, and Facebook posts that attest to that in the past few weeks, and I am no exception to the trend of new academic year resolutions.  Two of my key professional resolutions for this year are to blog more regularly here and to learn how to use Twitter more effectively (so I can tweet about more than my blog posts!). 

In thinking about resolutions, which are really about making change for the better, and looking for something to blog about, I started thinking about Massachusetts politics and what I would like to see happen here.  They’re not really resolutions, so to speak, more a wish list of what I want for our state political system.  So, here are some quick thoughts:

1) Competitive elections.  I am both a liberal and a Democrat, but I think our state politics would be improved with more competition in elections.  At a recent political science conference, I heard a presentation from Steven Rogers, from St. Louis University, who is working on a book on accountability in American legislatures.  His general conclusion is that there is little to no accountability, and a big part of the problem is a lack of competition in elections.  That finding holds here, and I’d love to see that change.

2) Transparency in government. I have blogged about this more than once here, but it should not be so hard for citizens to get information about what elected officials are doing and how decisions are being made.  Given past political scandals and this lack of transparency, people in Massachusetts seem to be pretty distrustful of our state government.  In my opinion, being more open would lead to more trust and perhaps a greater ability to solve thorny problems.

3) A better way to fund elections.  My colleague on this blog, Mo Cunningham, has convincingly laid out the case for what’s wrong with our current system of funding, given the influx of dark money.  It’s time to get serious about fixing what’s broken here.

4) A longer horizon in politics and policy making.  Okay, this one is really pie in the sky, but at all levels, our political system does a horrible job at looking at and planning for the long term.  So many of the issues we confront though, like climate change for example, unfold over periods that are much longer than election cycles.  We need to get better at addressing these issues. 

Clearly, my wish list is not designed to make me many friends in state government, and that’s okay with me.  These things, if they were to happen, might lead to some short term pain for some officials, but I think the long term gains would make it worth it. 

I am sure I am missing a lot here, so feel free to chime in with your own wish list for the Massachusetts political system. 

Resolutions, Massachusetts politics

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